The Encyclopedia of Film Criticism: Danny Bowes

Danny Bowes
One of the most frustrating stereotypes about film critics is the libel that all they do is tear down filmmakers' work. The reality is that anyone willing to spend the time it takes to be a film critic -- even if just for a year or two -- simply has to be getting something out of the investment.

Contributed to: Premiere,,, Hudak on Hollywood, Movie Mezzanine, Yahoo! Movies, IndieWire, The Atlantic,, The Dissolve, Salt Lake City Weekly, Film School Rejects, and his personal blog, Movies By Bowes.

Noted Champion of: Space Jail, Mr. Go, Maya Deren, John Ford, F.W. Murnau, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, the Cannon Group, Kathryn Bigelow, Farah Khan.

Influences: Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, Howard Waldrop ("less for film criticism per se than a particular attitude toward film that came forth in his fiction"), Scott Tobias "and the other fine folks formerly of The AV Club and now The Dissolve."

New York based Danny Bowes (October 26th, 1978-) makes film and theatre pieces when he isn't writing criticism of many kinds. A constant (and constantly humourous) presence on Twitter, Bowes is deeply connected to the continuing saga of film and film criticism, bringing wit and enthusiasm to the stories behind classic films as well as the state of modern TV and movies. He started writing for Premiere, which led to many other gigs, many of them online, including dedicated himself to reviewing Bollywood films for, giving them attention they aren't often afforded elsewhere. He communicates a love for his favourite auteurs that extends to their making project choices that play to their strengths. He lets his personal obsessions and loves drift into his writing because the success of the medium is personal to him. His writing on the state of criticism and his words in tribute of Roger Ebert  aren't just relevant, they're deeply touching. He knows better than most that one must have love for the medium to keep writing criticism because it isn't always a rewarding profession. He has an infectious conversational style, illuminating every aspect of a production with such glee that you can practically see his eyes lighting up as he discusses everything right with Kiss Me Deadly and Buckaroo Banzai. He's willing to go to bat not merely for films or artists he admires, but for the idea of a rational, civil critical conversation, an endangered species in 2014, making him a most vital voice.

On Kiss Me Deadly
That’s the biggest change made by Bezzerides and Aldrich: highlighting the fact that Mike Hammer, as played by Ralph Meeker, is not an exceedingly smart man, and that he has very few qualms about asking those close to him to put themselves at risk for his sake. He takes an unsettling pleasure in violence. But in spite of all this, he has his redeeming qualities. Although not the sharpest tool in the shed, he can nonetheless add two and two together, even if three and three is a bit ambitious. And — condescending as this may sound in 2011, in 1955 this was kind of a big deal — he gets along comfortably and intimately with people who have accents and aren’t white. At a time when most hard-boiled dicks tossed the n-word around like it was punctuation (including, distressingly, my beloved Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely), Meeker’s Hammer is on a friendly enough basis with a black bartender and lounge singer that they’re the company in which he chooses to mourn a fallen friend. While by no means am I suggesting that we canonize St. Mike Hammer the Racially Tolerant, it’s a humanizing touch that the character needs, and it’s a great improvement over Spillane’s version of the character. And Meeker captures all the tricky nuances quite well.

On Dhoom 3

Movie stars were originally called stars for the bright, glittery aspects of the heavenly bodies in question, but there's another quality that true stars, especially those of Aamir Khan's caliber possess, which is gravitational pull. "Dhoom: 3" doesn't attempt to resist this force in any way, with only the bare minimum of pretense that the "Dhoom" movies are Abhishek Bachchan/Uday Chopra buddy comedies anymore, putting the focus squarely on the story of Sahir Khan (played as a child by Siddharth Nigam and as an adult by Aamir Khan), a circus performer seeking revenge against Anderson (Andrew Bricknell), the cruel banker who ruined his father's life's work for no good reason..... The second half of "Dhoom: 3" features a surprisingly adroit, if not terribly subtle, interrogation into the the morality of operating outside the law for a good cause. The movie stacks the deck a bit by having the banker be such a loathsome (and implicitly racist) bastard, but Aamir Khan and Abhishek Bachchan do a compelling job exploring the various moral and ethical colors involved in the cops-and-robbers game. Khan brings out the best in Bachchan as an actor, with his performance in "Dhoom: 3" finally shorn of the awkwardness and dullness into which his work in the first two movies all too often regressed. This, again, is a testament to the control Khan exerts over the movie: never heavy-handed, but absolute.

On Christopher Nolan
After this Friday's The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan will stop making Batman moves—and that's a good thing. That's not because his have been bad films. Quite the opposite. The boldness of Nolan's storytelling, the seriousness and conscientiousness with which he addressed comic books as a form, and the degree to which he interwove comics conventions with cinematic ones, showed the world just how great comic-book movies could be. Without delving into too many spoiler-y particulars, Nolan has concluded his Batman trilogy on a fairly definitive note, and has said all he has to say as a writer and filmmaker about Batman as a character and (even more importantly) as a symbol. This is why even though both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were enormously successful with audiences and critics, and The Dark Knight Rises is almost certainly poised to continue that trend, it's time for Nolan to tackle a new challenge and for Batman to be re-imagined yet again. Nolan, starting with his second feature, 2000's Memento, has delivered a string of intelligent pop movies that are meticulously constructed, have a wide sweep, and are morally and formally complex. He's said that he considers Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, and Michael Mann to be his influences, and you can see the traits he shares with those directors: a flair for making bleakness engaging rather than ponderous, an interest in haunted, driven protagonists, and particularly in Kubrick's case, a knack for adaptation. Nolan's films deal heavily with memory, perception, and the knotty, amorphous definitions of right and wrong; they're not terribly profound in the way they go about exploring these subjects, but their subjects are worthy ones that aren't tackled all that often in mainstream (increasingly expensive) films.

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